Don't like to carry around large sums of cash? Hate taking time to write checks while others stand in line behind you at the store? Then a debit card might be right for you.
Debit cards have grown in popularity over the years. That is because they are so easy to use.
Consider a debit card an easy alternative to writing a check. When you go to your local grocery store, you can take out your debit card and pay the $80 for your groceries. You will not, though, have to pay that money back with interest as you would if you used a credit card. Instead, the dollars are taken immediately out of whatever bank account is connected to your debit card.
In essence, debit cards are like plastic checks, except you will not have to take the time to write a check while you are paying for your groceries, gas, clothing or any other purchase.
If you run the debit card as a debit and not a credit transaction, you'll have to enter a PIN, your personal identification number. After you swipe your debit card through a reader, you'll be prompted to enter your PIN before the purchase is complete. This protects you in case your debit card is lost or stolen.
Make sure, of course, that your debit card's PIN is a difficult one for anyone else to guess. Don't, for example, use your birth date or street address.
Debit cards come with an obvious benefit: They are convenient and you can avoid carrying cash with you that can be lost or stolen.
You should, however, be alert to some debit card risks. First, if you do not carefully track your purchases, you can run the risk of overdrawing the account connected to your card or having a purchase denied. So before you swipe that debit card, make sure you have enough money in your account to pay for your purchases.
You should be careful, too, of thieves. Keep an eye on your accounts for any unusual purchases. If you do suspect someone has obtained your card information and is using it, immediately call your bank.
Be alert too when using your card. Thieves sometimes connect machines to ATMs, gas pumps or card readers in stores in order to skim your debit card numbers as you swipe your card. What's especially tricky about these skimming machines is that they often fit over the real card slots, making them difficult to detect. When using your card, be alert to anything that does not look right.
Finally, be careful using your debit card to make an online purchase. Only input your card information on secure sites (note the small lock and https: in the site URL) that you trust. Learn more about shopping safely online.